The recently arrested Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operative Sandeep Kumar, alias Adil, is the key to reach the LeT module of Abu Ismail, who is being accused by the Jammu and Kashmir Police of executing the deadly attack on the Amarnath pilgrims on Monday evening. The attack at Botingo village of Anantnag left seven pilgrims dead and many more injured. Highly placed sources said that Sandeep Kumar has provided vital leads to his interrogators about the over-ground network of Abu Ismail and his colleagues who operate in South Kashmir, especially between Kulgam and Lower Munda along the Srinagar-Jammu highway. Kumar is said to have revealed the names of many workers and sympathisers of the Abu Ismail group, after which these people were detained for questioning. Their interrogation has led to the intelligence agencies zeroing in on a few orchards and hillocks in the Kulgam area in search of Abu Ismail’s group members.
Sources claim that Sandeep Kumar, who is originally a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar, has told intelligence officials that he was part of many LeT meetings where possible attacks on the Amarnath Yatra were discussed.
According to the J&K Police, Sandeep Kumar is an active Lashkar operative responsible for bank robberies in Kashmir and attacks on security forces.
The J&K Police is in touch with the police in UP and Punjab to look for possible LeT sleeper cells in these states. Sleuths believe that Sandeep Kumar, who was recently arrested by the J&K Police and was declared to be an active LeT operative, is part of a bigger conspiracy of the terrorist group to establish their modules in Punjab and UP. “We have been in touch with our counterparts in Punjab and UP, as Sandeep during the interrogation gave us some important leads,” a senior police officer told this newspaper.
After the J&K Police finished Sandeep’s questioning, it asked the UP and Punjab Police to come to Srinagar and interrogate him for his possible connections with LeT cells in these two states. A special team of the UP Police is already in Kashmir for this purpose.
During his interrogation, Sandeep is believed to have said that he used to stay in Punjab during winter, which has brought focus on his movements in this sensitive border state. Apparently, he stayed in Patiala for more than four months recently. The Punjab Police has been informed about the possibility of the existence of LeT sleeper cells in their state. A Punjab Police team is likely to interrogate Sandeep in the coming days.
Sandeep was arrested by sheer chance when he along with many civilians emerged from a house where LeT commander Bashir Lashkari was killed on 1 July. When he was questioned why he was in the house, he told the police that he was a Hindu, who was working as a welder and was caught unawares. The J&K Police did not believe him, and checked his cell phone, which gave them clues about his LeT links.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the CCTV cameras that were installed at various places along the highway to Amarnath, especially those in South Kashmir have been found to be not working. It is not known whether CCTV footage is available of the attack on the Amarnath yatris. Reports said that the government will look into its own intelligence grid to locate the killers as the Ministry of Home Affairs is using satellites and drones to monitor the security of the yatra.
Meanwhile, the local police and the CID wing of the J&K Police insist that the attack was carried out by Abu Ismail, a Pakistani national, with the help of a few locals, all of whom belong to the LeT. Thus they have contradicted some media reports that the attack was carried out by a Hizbul Mujahideen module.